Driver License and Related Issues During State and Federal Emergencies

Pennsylvania’s Governor has the authority to modify any provisions of the vehicle code during a declared national state or local emergency. This power is invoked when the Governor determines that the changes will help lessen the impact of the emergency. 

Some of you may recall the blizzard of 1993 when then Governor Ridge closed all Pennsylvania interstate highways for vehicular travel except for emergency vehicles. On March 6, Governor Wolf signed a proclamation of disaster emergency related to COVID-19. In that proclamation the Governor authorized the suspension of the rules or regulations of any Commonwealth Agency (including PennDOT) if strict compliance would “prevent, hinder or delay” necessary action in coping with the emergency. 

In response, PennDOT closed its driver license and photo centers to the public effective March 16 for two weeks. As a result, expiration dates for driver’s licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations and safety and emissions inspections are extended. Any of the above-mentioned products scheduled to expire between March 16 and March 31, 2020 are extended under the Governor’s order until April 30, 2020. 

Any driver cited in PA that fits into the above categories should plead not guilty and request a hearing. Those drivers will be immune from prosecution under Chapter 61 of our Vehicle Code. The proclamation is further extended to drivers of commercial motor vehicles travelling through and within PA Governor Wolf’s March 6 proclamation directs PennDOT to waive or suspend any laws or federal or state regulations related to the drivers of commercial vehicles. 

Although to date PennDOT has not issued a formal statement on this issue, our President, invoking federal law, has already authorized the FMCSA to issue temporary orders stated to be self-executing, even without additional state action. The affected provisions include waiver of hours of service requirements for truckers assisting in transporting essential supplies, equipment and personnel in response to COVID-19. 

There is a further waiver, until June 30, from certain regulations regarding expiration of CDLs and being in possession of a current valid medical card if the driver’s license or medical card expired on or after March 1, 2020. This waiver extends until 11:59 p.m. on June 30th. Of further importance is a specific waiver from PennDOT’s downgrading a CDL by official mail when they have not received proof that the PA CDL holder has had current, successful medical exam. 

Since PennDOT’s CDL unit operates in large part on pre-existing computer programs do not assume they will have made the necessary software adjustments in time to apply the emergency waiver required by FMCSA. There are strict time requirements applicable to responding to citations and to PennDOT notices 

If you should find yourself facing a matter related to the aforementioned information, please contact Attorney David Hershey immediately upon receipt of a citation and/or notice from PennDOT regarding downgrade or disqualification of your CDL. There is no cost for an initial phone consultation and Attorney Hershey can be reached at 1-800-615-0115

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